Excerpt from "No More Alibis", a beauty & fitness manual by Sylvia of Hollywood, published 1937:
I have no patience with clothes that attempt to hid your excess weight because their [sic] shouldn't be any excess weight to hide. However, I'll give you fat girls a few tips while you're reducing. But you've got to reduce if you want to look well in your clothes. During the process of taking off weight, here are some things to remember.
Wear plain clothes, rather tailored, not tight. It's a mistaken idea that tight clothes conceal weight. They don't. Wear dark colors. No big patterns or flowers. Subtle, narrow stripes are advisable if they run vertically, not horizontally. Don't wear long, pointed-toed shoes and high heels, for nothing is so ridiculous as a fat woman wabbling [sic] around on spike heels. A plain, fairly tailored suit, a sports hat and walking-heel shoes make the best costume.
Don't wear a lot of jewelry. One good looking ring, a simple wrist watch and one attractive brooch are enough. Don't call attention to a fat neck by wearing beads and necklaces.
As I've said so many times, bone structure can't be changed, so I give you some clothes tricks for disguising faulty bone structure.
Girls with narrow shoulders should wear padded shoulders for street and puffed sleeves for afternoon and evening. With tailored clothes those shoulder epaultets are fine. Taffeta is a good material for thin girls. Collars, scarfs, and big bows at the neck are a help, too.
Girls with short waist-lines should wear the princess type of dress. Avoid belts with sports clothes as belts accentuate the waist-line. Never wear one with a sweater.
Aside from one structure, the only other thing that can't be changed is your height. if you're very tall, don't complain. Look at the picture stars like Garbo and Katherine Hepburn and see what wonders they have accomplished either in spite of or because of their height. Notice how they dress and - always remembering that you must keep your own individuality - suit some of their styles to your own needs. Tall girls look wonderful in tailored clothes, tweeds and slouch hats. In evening clothes the lines should be broken by fulness in the louse and fulness in the skirt beginning around the knees. Belts help break a long line. Baby French heels for evening help to cut down height.
Short girls should observe Mary Pickford, Janet Gaynor and Marian Nixon in the matter of clothes to see how these stars have coped with shortness of stature. Usually short girls have short legs, so yours is a greater problem - for style - than the long-legged, tall girl. Wear long and simple lines. You can look outstanding and chic, no matter how short you are. But your figure must be slim and graceful. Narrow vertical stripes and small polka dots are good for you. Jackets with a long rose of buttons up the front lengthen your line. Your skirts should be longish and straight. You can -and should - wear high-heeled shoes and your day skirt should be eight inches from the floor.
If you'll make the flesh of your figure perfect, then these simple ideas will take care of your structural short-comings.